Chip, chip, chip.....................................

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Posted by Ballpark Frank ( on 12:09:01 07/29/16

In Reply to: Apparently there is enough bandwidth. posted by Beej


I remember musing about how the steady march of technological innovation was inevitably going to impact our national parks and tax our ability to cope with it many years ago. At the time, we were "blue-skying", wildly speculating about the eventual day when humans could literally fly without being encapsulated in an aircraft. Sure, jet packs were already being tested 50 or 60 years ago, but at this point, we still don't have the sort of simple anti-gravity device (like a belt) that was envisioned by sci-fi writers years ago.

We do have drones, and now we have Pokemon Go. It is instructional to notice how quickly drones evolved. Pokemon Go makes that evolution look glacial by comparison. It is virtually inevitable that absent some serious changes in the Pokemon Go programmed geography there are going to be users that fall off canyon rims, ledges, or mountains. A few will drown. One or two will likely wind up in a Yellowstone thermal feature.

My concern is less with the day to day tactical problems presented by Pokemon Go than it is with our society's ability to effectively deal with the inexorable march of new technology, and its ability to threaten public safety and resource protection in the national parks. We have this great system that was created to provide for the enjoyment by both present and future generations. I have no magic idea for how you effectively "wall off" national parks from all the new toys we are inventing.

There is a numeric confound at play here. Even if an agency like the National Park Service can persuade the vast majority of the population to comply with hastily evolving "new rules", how do you deal with the outliers? How likely is it that every one of 350 million American citizens are going to by into some new prohibition on something that doesn't even exist today? How about the billions of other potential visitors resident in other countries/continents?

I have a tendency to believe that over time, all this innovation will fundamentally change the relationship between people and their national parks. We may see rules and protocols undreamt of in the past, or we may see some places "walled off" the way we see priceless pieces of art secured from our hands on access, exhibited behind bulletproof glass.

Challenging times lie ahead.


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